Fun clip: the trailer from the movie Armageddon, if you can find it. The file was called armageddon.mov in Feb 2004 but it’s scarce now for some reason. See also http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/movies/armageddon.html for Phil Plait’s review
Thought question: were these pictures taken from Earth? One of these has a satellite (Ida is orbitted by Dactyl, lower left) The largest is Ceres, diameter ~1,000 km. There are 150,000 in catalogs, and probably over a million with diameter >1 km. Small asteroids are more common than large asteroids.
Why are there very few asteroids beyond the orbit of Jupiter? Because beyond the frost line, ice could form allowing planetesimals to grow rapidly.
All the asteroids in the solar system wouldn’t even add up to a small planet.
Simple rocks and metal, occasionally carbon compounds and water. Shiny bits are metal flakes, first to condense. White features are solidified dropletsof material that splashed out during impacts during accretion
Formed beyond the frost line, comets are icy counterparts to asteroids. The nucleus of a comet is like a “dirty snowball.”
Most comets do not have tails. Most comets remain perpetually frozen in the outer solar system. Only comets that enter the inner solar system grow tails.
Kuiper belt comets formed in the Kuiper belt: flat plane, aligned with the plane of planetary orbits, orbiting in the same direction as the planets. Oort cloud comets were once closer to the Sun, but they were kicked out there by gravitational interactions with jovian planets: spherical distribution, orbits in any direction.
Most have been discovered very recently so little is known about them. NASA’s New Horizons mission will study Pluto and a few other Kuiper Belt objects in a planned flyby.
Pluto is very cold (40 K). Pluto has a thin nitrogen atmosphere that refreezes onto the surface as Pluto’s orbit takes it farther from the Sun.
Its largest moon Charon is nearly as large as Pluto itself (probably made by a major impact).
Several atomic bombs worth of energy.
Crater is 1 km in diameter. Impact was 20 megatons Privately owned National Landmark.
Chapter 9 Asteroids, Comets, and Dwarf Planets Their Nature, Orbits, and Impacts
Asteroids with Moons <ul><li>Some large asteroids have their own moon. </li></ul><ul><li>Asteroid Ida has a tiny moon named Dactyl. </li></ul>
Asteroid Orbits <ul><li>Most asteroids orbit in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. </li></ul><ul><li>Trojan asteroids follow Jupiter’s orbit. </li></ul><ul><li>Orbits of near-Earth asteroids cross Earth’s orbit. </li></ul>
Orbital Resonances <ul><li>Asteroids in orbital resonance with Jupiter experience periodic nudges. </li></ul><ul><li>Eventually those nudges move asteroids out of resonant orbits, leaving gaps in the belt. </li></ul>
Origin of Asteroid Belt <ul><li>Rocky planetesimals between Mars and Jupiter did not accrete into a planet. </li></ul><ul><li>Jupiter’s gravity, through influence of orbital resonances, stirred up asteroid orbits and prevented their accretion into a planet. </li></ul>
Origin of Meteorites <ul><li>Most meteorites are pieces of asteroids. </li></ul>
Meteor Terminology <ul><li>Meteorite: A rock from space that falls through Earth’s atmosphere. </li></ul><ul><li>Meteor: The bright trail left by a meteorite. </li></ul>
Meteorite Types <ul><li>Primitive: Unchanged in composition since they first formed 4.6 billion years ago </li></ul><ul><li>Processed: Younger, have experienced processes like volcanism or differentiation </li></ul>
Meteorites from Moon and Mars <ul><li>A few meteorites arrive from the Moon and Mars </li></ul><ul><li>Composition differs from the asteroid fragments </li></ul><ul><li>A cheap (but slow) way to acquire moon rocks and Mars rocks </li></ul>
Nucleus of Comet <ul><li>A “dirty snowball” </li></ul><ul><li>Source of material for comet’s tail </li></ul>
Anatomy of a Comet <ul><li>Coma is atmosphere that comes from heated nucleus. </li></ul><ul><li>Plasma tail is gas escaping from coma, pushed by solar wind. </li></ul><ul><li>Dust tail is pushed by photons. </li></ul>
Kuiper belt: On orderly orbits from 30–100 AU in disk of solar system Oort cloud: On random orbits extending to about 50,000 AU Only a tiny number of comets enter the inner solar system; most stay far from the Sun.
Pluto’s Orbit <ul><li>Pluto’s orbit is tilted and significantly elliptical. </li></ul><ul><li>Neptune orbits three times during the time Pluto orbits twice — resonance prevents a collision. </li></ul>Orbits of Neptune and Pluto
Discovering Large Iceballs <ul><li>In summer 2005, astronomers discovered Eris, an iceball even larger than Pluto. </li></ul><ul><li>Eris even has a moon: Dysnomia. </li></ul>
Other Icy Bodies <ul><li>There are many icy objects like Pluto on elliptical, inclined orbits beyond Neptune. </li></ul><ul><li>The largest ones are comparable in size to Earth’s Moon. </li></ul>
Kuiper Belt Objects <ul><li>These large, icy objects have orbits similar to the smaller objects in the Kuiper Belt that become short period comets. </li></ul><ul><li>So are they very large comets or very small planets? </li></ul>
What are Pluto and other large objects of the Kuiper belt like?
Is Pluto a Planet? <ul><li>Much smaller than the eight major planets </li></ul><ul><li>Not a gas giant like the outer planets </li></ul><ul><li>Has an icy composition like a comet </li></ul><ul><li>Has a very elliptical, inclined orbit </li></ul><ul><li>Pluto has more in common with comets than with the eight major planets. </li></ul>
Is Pluto a Planet? <ul><li>In 2006, the International Astronomical Union decided to call Pluto and objects like it “dwarf planets.” </li></ul>
Mass Extinctions <ul><li>Fossil record shows occasional large dips in the diversity of species: mass extinctions . </li></ul><ul><li>The most recent was 65 million years ago, ending the reign of the dinosaurs. </li></ul>
Iridium: Evidence of an Impact <ul><li>Iridium is very rare in Earth surface rocks but is often found in meteorites. </li></ul><ul><li>Luis and Walter Alvarez found a worldwide layer containing iridium, laid down 65 million years ago, probably by a meteorite impact. </li></ul><ul><li>Dinosaur fossils all lie below this layer. </li></ul>
Iridium Layer Dinosaur fossils in lower rock layers No dinosaur fossils in upper rock layers Thin layer containing the rare element iridium
Consequences of an Impact <ul><li>A meteorite 10 km in size would send large amounts of debris into the atmosphere. </li></ul><ul><li>Debris would reduce the amount of sunlight reaching Earth’s surface. </li></ul><ul><li>The resulting climate change may have caused mass extinction. </li></ul>
Likely Impact Site <ul><li>Geologists found a large subsurface crater about 65 million years old in Mexico. </li></ul>
Comet or asteroid about 10 km in diameter approaches Earth
Is the impact threat a real danger or just media hype?
Facts About Impacts <ul><li>Asteroids and comets have hit the Earth. </li></ul><ul><li>A major impact is only a matter of time: not IF but WHEN. </li></ul><ul><li>Major impacts are very rare. </li></ul><ul><li>Extinction level events ~ millions of years </li></ul><ul><li>Major damage ~ tens to hundreds of years </li></ul>
Tunguska, Siberia: June 30, 1908 A ~40 meter object disintegrated and exploded in the atmosphere
Meteor Crater, Arizona: 50,000 years ago (50 meter object)
Frequency of Impacts <ul><li>Small impacts happen almost daily. </li></ul><ul><li>Impacts large enough to cause mass extinctions are many millions of years apart. </li></ul>
The Asteroid with Our Name on It <ul><li>We haven’t seen it yet. </li></ul><ul><li>Deflection is more probable with years of advance warning. </li></ul><ul><li>Control is critical: breaking a big asteroid into a bunch of little asteroids is unlikely to help. </li></ul><ul><li>We get less advance warning of a killer comet. </li></ul>
What are we doing about it? <ul><li>Stay tuned to http://impact.arc.nasa.gov </li></ul>
How do other planets affect impact rates and life on Earth?
Influence of Jovian Planets The gravity of a jovian planet (especially Jupiter) can redirect a comet.
Influence of Jovian Planets Jupiter has directed some comets toward Earth but has ejected many more into the Oort cloud.
Was Jupiter necessary for life on Earth? Impacts can extinguish life. But were they necessary for “life as we know it”?